Link building strategy: a successful approach in 6 steps

SEO is all about creating a great experience for the people visiting your website, or seeing your snippet in the search results. That’s why a lot of your SEO efforts will likely be focused on things like content, UX and pagespeed. Efforts that help you optimize your page or website overall. As they should! They help you become the best search result for search engines and people alike. However, there are also a few things outside of your website that you should not forget about. An important one being link building. In this post, we’ll discuss the 6 steps to create a successful link building strategy for any business.

In a nutshell, link building is the act of getting other websites to link to your page. The reason why you should invest some time into this is because these links are important for SEO. They help your pages rank higher in the search results. But that’s not the only thing they do:

A good link, first and foremost, drives traffic to your site.

Other websites linking to your page will help in getting more (referral) traffic to your site. This grows your overall traffic and brings new people into contact with your website. To make sure these efforts aren’t in vain, it’s good to think about which websites would make sense in linking to your pages. You want people who are visiting that website to also enjoy yours when they’re being directed there, but we’ll dive into that further on.

An important note is that link building is a strategy that should always be implemented from a holistic SEO perspective. Meaning that you should focus on getting quality backlinks that will actually generate traffic for your website. In addition, it means staying away from bad practices as these can hurt your rankings.

1. Really get to know your audience

To get an idea of what websites would ideally link to yours, you first need to know who your audience is. You might have a hunch of who your readers are, but you’ll be surprised how often that doesn’t match with reality. Make sure to do some research and analyze your audience to get to know them. This can help you retain your current following and perhaps even reach new audiences that might want to find what you’re offering. All of this also gives you a better idea of other websites they might be interested in. If it feels natural, you can even ask them about the other websites they frequent.

A Yoast example

To give you an example, say you run an online store with loads of craft materials. You also like blogging about new craft ideas every now and then. User research could give you the insight that a large part of your audience is parents looking for fun crafts to do with their kids. This could give you the idea to reach out to websites listing fun activities to do with kids. Something you possibly wouldn’t have done if you had not known about that segment of your target audience.

Moving to an example closer to home, at Yoast we started with an audience that consisted mainly of WordPress developers. However, we wanted to broaden that audience to a more general group of WordPress users without losing our initial public.
For this purpose we created additional content catered to our new readers, and got to work to get links from other websites where these people could be found.

2. Create a list of sites your audience visits

When you know more about your potential audience, you can create a list of websites that will help you reach them. Use your research to find websites that appeal to these readers, especially if they don’t know about your website yet. Landing on your pages through a link suggested by a site they already trust or enjoy could make these users become your audience too. However, do pay attention: is there a logical connection between you and the websites on the list? If the answer is yes, this increases your chances of getting the link and is better for SEO as well. A link from a website that has absolutely nothing to do with your niche is not valuable when it comes to your position in the search results.

In addition, note that a link from a spammy website is also not going to do you any good. This strategy can even backfire and hurt your rankings as Google is absolutely not a fan of bad link building practices. So stay away from unreliable websites, paying for your links, and other link building DON’Ts. Link building isn’t just a trick or something you can throw money at, is part of a marketing strategy you should approach conscientiously to be successful, as suggested by a holistic SEO approach.

3. Write great content

Once you know which websites you’d liked to connect to, you need to convince them. An essential requirement to get other websites to link to your content is to have articles that makes them want to connect to your pages. Which means you need to create quality content. Content that appeals to your audience, is helpful and that showcases your unique point of view. If you sell products or services, don’t just write about why they’re awesome and why users should buy them. Write content that answers a question your audience has or solves a problem they’re facing. Don’t center it around your product or service. Make your content genuinely helpful and show your expertise on the topic. This will not only build trust and authority, but will also get more links to your page as other websites see the value of your content.

To give a practical illustration: let’s say you sell garden tools like lawnmowers. Instead of writing a blog post on why your lawnmower is the best one out there, try something else. For example, writing a blog post on a topic like ‘How to get your garden ready for the summer’. Or if you sell furniture, write an article on the latest trends in interior design. This type of content is a lot more shareable for other people outside your company. Which will increase your chances of getting relevant links. If you need guidance on creating quality content, we have lots of articles on content SEO and an SEO copywriting training course.

Guest blogging

Also on the topic of writing quality content, when you’re a blogger or (aiming to be) an expert in your field, another option is guest blogging. Not only this builds your authority, but it’s a great strategy to successfully get more links to your website. Often enough, blogs are looking for input from fellow bloggers. Furthermore, after having you on their website, the hosts will likely let you link to your own pages in return. This gets you the opportunity to bring yourself into contact with their audience and a respectable link to your website. Namely, growing your reach.

Once again, be tactical in the websites you choose to partner up with. They should be trustworthy and relevant to your own domain to get any real value out of it. Visit your favorite blogs, or blogs that are similar to yours, and check if they’re open to guest submissions. They’ll usually mention this on their contact or collaboration page.

4. Match your content to the right website

When you’re happy with the content you’ve written, it’s time to dive into the list of websites you’ve made during step #2. Which ones will be likely to link to which piece of content? You may be tempted to just send everything that you’ve created to everyone, but this will hurt your chances of anyone linking to your content. You will come across as spammy and you can’t ask those people to read 5 blog posts and decide which one they like.

Also good to know: if you have a long tail keyword approach (writing about small and niche subjects) the number of websites that are a good fit will be smaller. This isn’t a bad thing, as very specific content can mean that this smaller number of websites is more willing to link to your content. It can also mean that readers will appreciate your content even more. As there’s less of the same written out there, they’ll be eager to know more about your it and your business.

5. Reach out in a personal way

After figuring out which content to send to whom, it’s time to reach out to them. You can always send an email, but social media like X/Twitter or LinkedIn are also a great way to contact people directly. To increase your chances of getting their attention, make sure to do your homework. Use your audience research and what you know about the website to personalize your message. Never send out automated emails. Rather, send them a polite message in which you tell them about your content, why you feel it would be of value for their audience and request them to place a link to your content. Please note that often you will not get a reply at all.

To improve your chances, you need to explain why your content is unique. Trying to get a link for a general blog post anyone could’ve written is less likely to succeed than a unique piece of content. Information people can only find on your website. That being said, don’t make your message too long, as this will result in people not reading it at all. If you’re not sure where to start, you can also contact your business partners. They will probably be active in a field that’s related to yours and they’ll be more willing to link to your site (as you already know them personally). Just make sure that the backlink is relevant and doesn’t feel forced. Like I said before, link building should always feel natural, or it won’t be a successful strategy.

6. Extend your reach through social media

Reaching out to specific people or websites is one way to get links to your content. Another option is to share your content on social media. This can also lead to other people sharing your content, which helps you extend your reach. And a wider reach gives you a higher chance of people linking to you on their websites as well. When people like, share and talk about your content on social media, you’re bound to reach new audiences and receive some more links as well.

A successful link building strategy should always be aimed at getting new people in contact with your website. A (welcome) side effect of proper link building is a higher ranking in Google. As long as you consider link building as a way to reach out to other sites to get more visitors that will genuinely enjoy your content, you’re doing it right. Lots of luck!

Read more: Link building from a holistic SEO perspective »

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